The more I think about it the strategy of VMware joining OpenStack is starting to make more and more sense. I wrote an earlier piece on how vCloud Director vs. OpenStack wasn’t the debate. Similar I don’t believe VMware and OpenStack compete at even the datacenter layer or Cloud layer for that matter. An argument could be made that before VMware and EMC spun off Pivotal that OpenStack and VMware were direct competitors but since the spinoff I think VMware really does want OpenStack to succeed.
My primary argument is OpenStack is doing for VMware what open source is designed to do at its core; which is to give contributors and users a jump start on the product and services based on the core distribution. The “traditional” players use of OpenStack has been an obvious and I’d argue intended use case. Rackspace, Dell and HP are all Cloud providers that were looking for a Cloud OS. While players like IBM, may or may not use the code to provide a Cloud service but will take every consulting opportunity as a result of the project. When you look at VMware there doesn’t seem to be anything on the service that benefits them directly. I don’t think when Rackspace teamed up with NASA to open source OpenStack they intended VMware to be a major contributor.
VMware’s hybrid Cloud service will be built on vCloud Director and I doubt very seriously if you were looking to implement an OpenStack Cloud you’d be calling VMware Professional Services any time soon. So what’s the play? I don’t think you have to look any further than their purchases and divestitures. They brought a virtual network company and got rid of their PaaS solutions. OpenStack needs virtual network (and storage for that matter) and Nicira seems just as committed to OpenStack as they had prior to the acquisition. This gives additional strength to my guess that VMware wants to use a relatively cheap investment in OpenStack to further their Software Defined Data Center (SDDC) strategy.
The SDDC is in some circles a unicorn – an architecture that can’t be achieved because you need open standards for virtualized networks, physical networks and storage. VMware wasn’t going to get the cooperation of the industry to get open standards without some additional industry support. vCloud Director wasn’t/isn’t going to get them SDDC on its own merits. Storage and network vendors need incentive and a sense of control before they let a software layer control their hardware solutions. This is where OpenStack comes into play.
vCloud power by OpenStackOpenStack is a train that once it achieved full speed wasn’t going to stop for any single vendor. Even Cisco wouldn’t be able to hold out and say they weren’t going to integrate with an OpenStack Cloud fully. Google and Facebook are building their own switches so even the powerful Cisco has to have a strategy for the next generation data center which will include some type of Cloud Manager. Why not an open project such as OpenStack?
With all of the major hardware vendors onboard, why not strike and try to leverage your position, instead of challenging OpenStack VMware embraced it. They brought not only virtual network support but support for ESXi and vCenter. Why do all of the work of developing a true Cloud wrapper for vSphere when you can leverage the work of your competitors. For enterprises that are looking just to extend their vCenter infrastructure with self-service you have vCloud Director. When you want to take the step of building and SDDC that can be extended to hybrid Cloud providers and gives AWS type functionality and API’s then you have “OpenStack Powered by VMware” which would be their NSX hypervisor, ESXi and vCenter.
OpenStack is exactly what VMware needed to fight their biggest threat – Amazon’s AWS.